Choosing an Accountant who is right for your business
Making sure you choose the right accountant is a critical business decision. In many ways it is similar to recruiting a key staff member – choose the right one and they will support you and drive your business, choose the wrong one and it can prove costly and set your business back.
Traditional methods have tended to focus on simple criteria; for example location or, perhaps, a recommendation from a friend or colleague. But in today’s interconnected world you can cast the net much wider.
However, there are thousands of accountants out there – the challenge is to find the perfect fit for your business.
Here are some of the key criteria that business owners should arm themselves with when looking for a new accountant:
The Business relationship
Challenge your accountant on what they can bring to your business – ask them what their specialisms are and how these can help your business. Be wary if they claim to be a specialised in ‘everything’. Some accountants may be great at tax but poor at designing and implementing business strategy, so decide what is going to be important for you and your business.
Another key criteria is to find an accountant who sees themselves as a ‘business partner’ to you and your company; somebody who is interested and wants to get involved in more than just doing the VAT and company accounts.
Do not underestimate the importance of getting on well with your accountant. Accountants may not have the greatest reputation for being the most social and likeable people in the world but make sure that your personalities work well together. If you speak regularly and ‘get on’, a natural trust will form and the business partnership can become very powerful.
You would assume that if somebody calls themselves an accountant or runs an accountancy firm, they would be qualified accountants. However, this is not necessarily the case.
As a general standard, ensure that your accountant is a member of one of the chartered accountancy bodies (ICAEW, CIMA, ACCA). Their members have to adhere to strict rules operated by their respective institutes, and you also have recourse to complain to the institute if things go wrong.
The right size
This is important. Accounting practices vary enormously in terms of their size: they range from small, one man bands up to several hundred people in the larger practices. Larger practices will likely have all the specialisms covered so can provide a ‘one stop’ shop for your different needs, but you may also lose some of the personal service if you are dealing with lots of different people. Think about your own needs and style and choose the size that works for you.
The right systems
Accounting systems and book keeping systems are changing – there are some great products available now that can transform how your business runs. This is particularly true of cloud based accounting packages which are very accessible to all business owners – ask your prospective accountant which systems they recommend and what advantages the system can bring to your business.
Think about where your business is in its lifecycle – are you looking to sell in the future, are you looking to diversify into different markets. Make sure the accountant understands this and ask them for examples of where they have helped clients in similar situations and what the outcomes have been. Don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials.
Fees are an important consideration when choosing an accountant. It is really important to understand exactly what you are getting for your money, so ask for a fixed fee per job and ask the accountant for a detailed quote. Always discuss fees upfront to avoid any surprises down the line. Like most service industries fees vary considerably; bear in mind that the cheapest option may not be the best option – the old adage of ‘penny wise pound poor’ is incredibly relevant. If the accountant is going to add value or save you money, perhaps through tax planning or providing strategic guidance, then factor this in and look at the ‘value’ that the accountant brings and compare this to the fees that they are charging.
How to Switch Accountants
Switching accountants is a very straight forward process…
The simple steps are:
- Send your current accountant an email or letter informing them that you intend to move (download the template below)
- Your new accountant will then write to your existing accountant asking for ‘Professional Clearance’. This is a courtesy between accountants and is an opportunity for any issues to be discussed, for example non-payment. As long as no issues exist then the existing accountant will transfer a copy of all of the key records (accounts, tax returns etc) to the new accountant
- The new accountant will perform anti-money laundering checks. This is very straight forward and involves the client providing photo ID and proof of address.
That is it, you are now up and running with your new accountant.
Why do people change accountants? The most common reasons are listed below:
- My current accountant only contacts me once a year at the year end
- My accountant is not proactive with advice he gives
- My accountant is not interested in me or my business
- My current accountant takes ages to get my accounts done
- My accountant provides poor value for money
- My accountant hits me with unexpected charges
- My accountant and I just don’t get along
- My business has grown and evolved so we have outgrown our current accountants
- My accountant wants me to use an old accounting system which is not user friendly
…and what they say.
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“I approached YFT recently to ask his advice on how to support my small business growth and improve the current Accounting operations. They have provided some excellent help and support, including a very comprehensive training session to show us how to use cloud accountancy software Xero to improve our productivity and reporting. It will make my life much easier. Thank you.”
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“Mark Randall and Your Finance Team assisted The Sheriffs Office in a major financial transaction. We found him to be professional, knowledgeable and proactive in his approach which is something often lacking with Accountants and financial advisors. We would highly recommend his services and will continue to use him going forward.”
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“I cannot recommend Your Finance Team highly enough. Mark and his team constantly go above and beyond for my freelance business, and are so helpful and easy to deal with. They’re hugely conscientious, with forensic attention to detail and a phenomenal work ethic; hiring Your Finance Team is the best decision I’ve ever made as a freelancer. If you’re thinking about getting a new accountant, it’s a no-brainer.”
“Mark is an expert in his field and a fantastic communicator. He has provided wise guidance and excellent advice during the time that we have worked together.”
MD, create. Select Ltd
“Your Finance Team are professional, informative and friendly, they also offered flexibility and a willingness to work in a way that suited my business.”
Director, Jeffcoate and Co
“The friendly and approachable manner of all the team at YFT makes running my business smoother. Knowing they are there for support and advice gives me peace of mind.”
Director, Forefront Professionals
“Moving to Your Finance Team was an excellent decision for our company. Mark spent time on understanding our business and quickly developed a clear knowledge of the details. YFT has provided clear advice for us on all large and small issues where we have needed guidance. YFT is reliable, offers a high quality service and Mark goes above and beyond to ensure we have the support we need. I’ve been extremely grateful for Mark’s patience and expertise.”
Head Speech & Language Therapist, ClarkSLT
“YFT have been our accountants for 4 years. We have been really happy with the support they provide with a professional but personal touch. Knowing they are on hand for any issues that arise means we can focus on running our business and leave the technical side to them.”
Director - Resolution NDT
“Your Finance Team assisted in the setting up of our new business in 2016. The advice and support provided during this complex and sometimes stressful period, proved to be invaluable. Your Finance Team have continued to support us since by acting as our FD, providing board level services, management information and full financial compliance for our business. I’m relieved to know that our finances are in safe hands.”
Director - Newland Development Services Ltd
“I’ve been really pleased with the way YFT have helped and guided me through accounting, Tax and VAT payments. I think your quick response time for queries is just what you need when it’s all going wrong! I’ve also used their services to evaluate a prospective company purchase. I was happy with the informative way I was guided through the process by Mark, which answered a lot of my questions. I’ve always been really happy with their service.”
Director - Absolute NDT Solutions Ltd
“Moving to Your Finance Team was one of the best decisions we have made. We now have a greater understanding of our accounts, feel better equipped for making business critical decisions and enjoy access to a team of highly skilled and incredibly approachable individuals.”
Director - Empire Tiling
“I recently moved my accounting over to Your Finance Team. The level of service I have received has been exemplary. They offer excellent advise and provide a comprehensive service. The friendly staff were more than happy to discuss my accounts and guide me when required. I will be continue to use Your Finance Team in the future, and am relieved to have found a professional, reliable and friendly company I can trust to manage my accounts.